Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

New surprise project, and Scrivener

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OK, so yesterday I got an idea for a new non-fiction book in Italian – a fun thing that might have a market and is based on the classic 36 Stratagems by Sun Tzu.
A nice intersection of some stuff I’ve been doing recently and my long-standing interest for Chinese culture.

Scrivener (software)Currently I have a lot of stuff on my plate, but this is the sort of sweet and easy thing I can do in my spare time, and it’s probably going to find a lot of readers and sell nicely.
In the spirit of doing the maximum work with the minimum expenditure of energy1, I set out to outline and plan the book as a sort of ultrafast, guerrilla project.
Scrivener, the software i normally use for big projects, was pretty useful.

Here’s how I planned the thing, in case you are interested2

Sun-tzu-biz-tips-article1 . I got me an e-text of the 36 Stratagems.

2 . I fired up Scrivener and created a new empty project

3 . I created a text document in the project for each one of the 36 stratagems, and I copied in the document the text of the stratagem – both in Italian and in Chinese (I think this is a nice touch); these will be the headings of each subsection, and will introduce my text and commentary.

4 . I created further documents for
. front matter
. Introduction
. an introduction for each one of the six chapters
. Conclusions
. Thanks and assorted blah blah
. Bibliography, links etc.
. a Dear Reader page3

5 . I marked each text document as Chapter & To Do, and I set the word count target (20.000 words) and the writing session targets (500 words)

6 . I saved and backed up the lot and then

7 . I activated the notes sidebar, and jotted down a quick note about the meaning of each chapter and stratagem, and how that meaning will connect with the topics I’m going to explore – this will be my guideline/reminder when actually composing each chapter

8 . I was pleased with myself, saved the lot, and turned Scrivener off for the time being.

Setting up the whole took less than one hour, and my structure is perfectly organized and ready to roll.
In this way, I have outlined in full my ebook, and I’ll be able to go through it whenever I feel like.
Considering I’m planning a 300/500 words entry for each stratagem, it will be much like writing blog posts on a given subject, in this case stuff such as

5.3 – feign madness but remain balanced

… so it will not be very complicated, and I can go in whichever order I please.

I’m quite happy with my progresses in using Scrivener – and it’s fun to find out new ways to use the functionalities of the software to speed up the writing process.
And talking of speed… I’d love to have this book finished by the weekend, but there’s another ebook I would like to shut down by Sunday, so I’ll have to juggle projects.


  1. which is, by the way, just how natural systems work. 
  2. and yes, I do endorse Scrivener as the best writer software out there, there’s a link in the sidebar for you to go and buy a copy, and yes, I do make a buck out of each sale. But were I not convinced of the fact this is a great software, i would not be endorsing and selling it, so there! 
  3. this is something I discovered recently, and we’ll talk about it sooner or later. 
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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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